Category Archives: Parks Passport Posts

December Stamps: Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota offers spectacular scenery of the Little Missouri River from the park's North Unit.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota offers spectacular scenery of the Little Missouri River from the park’s North Unit.

I’m a little late in getting to this post this month, which is ironic as there is actually only one new stamp from Eastern National for the month of December:

  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park | Elkhorn Ranch

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a true hidden gem of a national park, located in western North Dakota.   Talk to many people who have visited a lot of national parks, and I guarantee that more than a few will list Theodore Roosevelt as providing more spectacular scenery and natural beauty than they had expected.

Theodore Roosevelt the man was born in 1858 into a life of relative privilege, a story that is now told by the reconstructed home at Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site in New York City.   When he was 26, tragedy struck his life on Valentine’s Day 1884.  His mother passed away from typhoid fever in the early morning hours, and then later that same day, in the same house, his first wife, Alice, died of kidney failure – just two days after giving birth to their first child, Alice Lee.   Overcome with grief, Roosevelt famously wrote in his diary, “the light has gone out in my life” below a large “X” on the same page.

Roosevelt would entrust his baby daughter to care of his sister, and head off to the badlands of North Dakota.   Roosevelt had visited North Dakota the previous year on a hunting trip, and had become a partner in a ranching venture out there with two others.   This time, he would establish his own ranch, the Elkhorn Ranch.

Theodore Roosevelt originaly came to North Dakota on a hunting trip, and his disappointment at the despoiled wildlife would lead him to a lifetime of conservation.   Today, the national park is a refuge for bison, which you might find right outside your tent in the morning, if you are lucky.
Theodore Roosevelt originaly came to North Dakota on a hunting trip, and his disappointment at the despoiled wildlife would lead him to a lifetime of conservation. Today, the national park is a refuge for bison, which you might find right outside your tent in the morning, if you are lucky.

 

Roosevelt would spend about three years at the Elkhorn Ranch.   There’s no doubt that his time in the North Dakota badlands profoundly impacted him, making him a conservationist, and impressing upon him the value of outdoor living and recreation.  He would later say that “I would never have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.”

After about three years, the unusually severe winter of 1886-1887 would wipe out his cattle herd, like many others in the area.   Having lost his investment, he would return back east to re-enter politics (something he actually had really never left), marry his childhood friend Edith Kermit Carow, and reclaim custody of baby Alice Lee (who was now three.)

In 1947, President Truman would establish this area of the North Dakota badlands as Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park.   In 1978, the park was expanded and renamed Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Today the Park is comprised of two major units.  The North Unit is located just outside of Watford City, ND – in the heart of North Dakota’s shale oil boom.   This part of the park has spectacular views of the Little Missouri River cutting across the landscape, like the photo at the top of this article.

Rock concretions give the appearance of enormous mushrooms in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Rock concretions give the appearance of enormous mushrooms in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

 

The South Unit is located right outside the resort town of Medora and right off Interstate-94.    This area of the Park is particularly famous for its spectacular rock formations and petrified wood – making it a fantastic location for an easy day-hike.   Both the South Unit and the North Unit have bison herds, so you may see bison in either section of the park.

Finally, Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch is located 35 miles on a dirt road north of the South Unit Visitor Center near Medora.    Unfortunately, I didn’t make it up to that part of the park during my one visit (so far) to this National Park, so I don’t have any pictures.   However, the National Park Service website for the park has some nice short videos on Elkhorn Ranch that are very much worth checking out.

The Elkhorn Ranch is the fourth Passport Stamp for Theodore Roosevelt National Park, joining one stamp for the North Unit and two stamps for the South Unit (South Unit and Painted Canyon.)   With this new stamp,  there are now 1,946 active Passport Cancellations out there.

A final shot from Theodore Roosevelt National Park
A final shot from the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Note: All pictures in this post are from the Parkasaurus’ visit to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in 2004.
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Liven Up Your Passport with Commemorative Stickers

EPSON MFP image
An example of how special commemorative stamps can liven up the pages of your Parks Pasport.

The Passport to Your National Parks program offers at least one passport stamp at each of the national parks in the U.S. National Park System.  One of the beauties of the program is its consistency.   At the same time, however, its hard to deny that there isn’t something a little boring about the Passport stamps themselves – each of them are the same round circle with text around the upper border, text around the lower border, and a date across the middle.

Thus, to liven up the pages of your Parks Passport Book, the creators of the Passpor Program, Eastern National, annually offer for sale a set of ten commemorative stamps to live up the pages of your Parks Passport.  In the early days of the Passport Program, back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, these comemorative stamps were sold in the same style and format as postage stamps – with special envelope mounts for mounting them in your Passport.   Nowadays, the commemorative stamps are sold in an easy-to-use sticker format.

Each commemorative stamp features a photo of a national park, as well as a short explanatory blurb about the park.   The photos are selected each year from submissions made by National Park Service employees and volunteers.   Each year there is one commemorative stamp for each of the nine geographical regions in the Passport Program, as well a tenth, large-format, national stamp each year – typically for a national park celebrating a special anniversary that year.

Anyhow, the news this week is that Eastern National has announced the nine new commemorative stamps for 2015:

The selection of Appomattox Courthouse as the 2015 National Commemorative Stamp is no surprise.   On April 9, 1865 Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the CIvil War 150 years ago in 2015.

Likwise, the selection of Ford’s Theatre NHS also makes perfect sense, as it was the site, 150 years ago on April 14, 1865 of President Lincoln’s Assasination.   Somewhat interestingly, this makes Ford’s Theatre a relatively rare park to now have two commemorative annual regional stickers, as Ford’s Theatre was previously the featured sticker for the National Capital Region in 1993.   A duplication was somewhat inevitable, however, as 2015 is the 30the year that commemorative stamps/stickers have been issued, there are only 24 national parks in the National Capital Region, and the last national park in the National Capital Region to get its own sticker, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove on the Potomac, finally got its own sticker last year.

The LBJ Memoria Grove on the Potomac features a large stone obelisk, and in 2014 it became the last  national park in the National Capital Region to get its own commemorative stamp.
The LBJ Memoria Grove on the Potomac features a large stone obelisk, and in 2014 it became the last national park in the National Capital Region to get its own commemorative stamp.

 

The only other park to have been featured twice on regional stickers under the same name is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which was the National Capital Region sticker on the first commemorative stamp/sticker set way back in 1986, and then was featured again in 1994 – marking the addition of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial statue the previous year in 1983.  Four other national parks in Washington, DC have had different individual memorials within those parks featured on the annual commemorative stamps in different years.   Meanwhile, its worth noting that Fort Clatsop National Memorial, which marks the place where the explorers Lewis & Clark finally reached the Pacific Ocean, was featured on the 1992 sticker for the Pacific Northwest & Alaska Region.   After the name of this national park was changed by Congress to Lewis & Clark National Historical Park, it was featured again on a commemorative regional sticker in 2010.

Interestingly, the Southwest, North Atlantic, Midwest, and Rocky Mountain Region all have between 39 and 43 national parks in them.  Thus, all four of those regions will likely reach the point of having each national park within those regions on at least one commemorative regional sticker within the next 10 years or so.

In the meantime, enjoy filling in your Passport Books with the latest set of commemorative stickers.

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November Stamps: 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi….

Davis Bayou-001
Davis Bayou in Gulf Islands National Seashore is one of 19 new Passport locations in Mississippi this month.  Photo credit: NPS.gov.

 

Eastern National has released its list of new stamps for the month of November, and its a big month for the State of Mississippi.

For starters, the Gulf Islands National Seashore has two new stamps:

  • one for Opal Beach in Florida, and
  • one ofr Davis Bayou in Mississippi.

These two additions give the park a total of 10 stamps available to collect.

The Gulf Islands National Seashore is primarily known for pristine white sand beaches on coastal barrier islands in the Florida Panhandle and coastal Mississippi.  (Interestingly, the park does not include any lands in Alabama in between the two.)   Opal Beach is one of those gorgeouse stretches of white sand, on the eastern end of Santa Rosa Island, just outside of Pensacola, Florida.

In addition to the beaches, however, Gulf Islands National Seashore also preserves some of the natural coastal habitat on the mainland.   Davis Bayou is one of these areas, located just outside of the park’s secondary visitor center in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

The State of Mississippi also gets a number of new additions as the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area has decided to add  18 new Passport cancellations.  These new cancellations will join the existing stamp for “The Mississippi Delta” available at the Heritage Area Headquarters at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi.   The new stamps are as follows:

  • Bolivar County
  • Carroll County
  • Coahoma County
  • DeSoto County
  • Holmes County
  • Humphreys County
  • Issaquena County
  • Leflore County
  • Panola County
  • Quitman County
  • Sharkey County
  • Sunflower County
  • Tallahatchie County
  • Tate County
  • Tunica County
  • Warren County
  • Washington County
  • Yazoo County

Based on this list, it seems likely that each of these new stamps will be located at the local County Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center in each of the counties located within the Heritage Area, all in northwest Mississippi.  This is a not-uncommon arrangement for Heritage Areas participating in the Passport Program, as there is a natural desire to spread participation out over all areas included in the Heritage Area’s partnership program.   For what its worth, I’m not particularly a fan of that arrangement.   I would much rather have seen the Heritage Area pick out the dozen-or-so most-significant places in the Mississippi Delta, regardless of county, than distribute them evenly.  For example, a stamp at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi would  be much more meaningful to met than simply making a stamp for Coahoma County at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center.   Still, these new 18 passport stamps will take passport stamp collectors throughout a part of the country that many of them would probably have been unlikely to visit otherwise – which has always been one of the main points of the program.

The Mississippi Delta NHA is one of three national heritage areas in the state of Mississippi.   The Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area has 20 stamps in the southern part of the stamp, and the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area has just two stamps (so far) in the northeast part of the state.

Finally, there were two other new major stamps.   One was for the newly-dedicated American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, DC, which is part of the catchall National Capital Parks unit of the U.S. National Park System.   The other is a new stamp for Great Smoky Mountains Naitonal Park and Bryson City, NC.   Bryson City is the gateway to the Deep Creek area in the northwest corner of the park.

With these new additions, that now takes us up to 1,939 activie Passport cancellations available.   Slowly closing in on 2,000!

 

 

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How National Heritage Areas Fit into the National Park System

The list of new stamps for October inspired me to write a little background post on National Heritage Areas.

A National Heritage Area (NHA) is one of several partnership programs managed by the National Park Service.  All National Heritage Areas are designated by Congress, and apply to a specific geographic area, usually an area of multiple counties.  A National Heritage Area generally does not have any sites that are directly manged by the Naitonal Park Service.  Instead, each National Heritage Area authorization also designates an official “partnerhip organization” that will work with the National Park Service to develop projects and programs within the geographic area of the NHA.   The projects and programs developed within an NHA can include things like historic preservation, development of interpretive displays, educational outreach projects,  resource conservation, and tourism promotion.  The Alliance of National Heritage Areas is the industry association for the various NHA partnership organizations around the country.

Like many things in the National Park System (and in fairness, like many things that originate in Congress), designations are not always done consistently.   Although the vast majority of NHA’s carry the name National Heritage Area, such as the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area in northeastern Alabama, several other designations abound.  The very first National Heritage Area, the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor in northeastern Illinois, was designated 30 years ago in 1984.   Around a half-dozen other NHA’s go by the designation of national heritage corridor, although there is no distinction between that and a national heritage area.   Several others have unique designations including the National Coal Heritage Area in south-central West Virginia, the National Aviation Heritage Area in and around Dayton, Ohio, the Great Basin National Heritage Route in Nevada and Utah, and the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership along the New York-Vermont border.

Just as there are a variety of designations, National Heritage Areas can vary greatly in size and scope.  The Wheeling National Heritage Area consists of just the city of Wheeling, WV, tucked in to a sliver of land between Pennsylvania and Ohio.  On the other hand, the Gullah-Geechee National Heritage Corridor stretches along the Atlantic Coast from southern North Carolina through South Carolina and Georgia and into northern Florida.  The Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area is particularly unusual, covering the all civil war sites across the whole state of Tennessee.   Go figure.

Similarly, when it comes to the Passport Program, the 49 National Heritage Areas are all over the map.   Currently, 9 of them don’t have any Passport stamps at all.  One of those is because the partner association for the Heritage Area went out of business.  Another originally put two passport stamps in regional visitor centers, but later decided to discontinue the visitor center operations and focus on other activities.   Two others of those nine offer a picture stamp, but which unlike traditional Passport cancellations, does not have a date in the center.  The other five have all been established within the last ten years and have simply never participated in the program.

Of the remainder, 21 National Heritage Areas have either just one stamp located at the headquarters offices or a central visitor’s center, or else have just two stamps.

That leaves 19 National Heritage Areas that fully participate in the Passport Program with cancellations available at multiple locations in the area.   Even here, there is a broad range.   The Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area in south-central Alaska has three locations.   By contrast, the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area in New York State has a whopping 67 Passport cancellations – enough to fill the North Atlantic section of a traditional blue Passport book more than three times over!

Suffice to say, National Heritage Areas come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and flavors.  At their best, National Heritage Areas bring in to the National Park System areas that would not otherwise be suitable for direct management like the National Park System.  A great example of this is the Motorcities National Heritage Area in eastern Michigan, which includes many of that area’s world-class automotive museums.   Among those is The Henry Ford Museum, which is on many people’s bucket list, even without being Parks Passport completists.   The downside is that since National Heritage Areas operate via local partnerships, and without direct management by the National Park Service, they sometimes fail to provide the consistent visitation experience that we have come to expect from out-and-out national parks.

With that being said, I am strong believe that the National Park System, and by extension, the Passport Program, should include all of the United States’ most-significant natural, historical, and cultural sites.  The National Heritage Area program is at its best when its bringing some of America’s treasures into the National Park System, even though they will probably never be suitable for direct management by the National Park Service.   The National Park System is a better place when it includes the Motorcities, the Erie Canalway, and Niagara Falls – all of which would surely be worthy for inclusion in the National Park Service based on their national significance alone, but which either do not lend themselves easily to a traditional national park, or else are already being well- managed by outside entities, or both.

As Congress has become more budget-conscious in recent year, there have not been any new National Heritage Area designations since 9 were designated in 2009.   Both the career staff of the National Park Service and the Government Acountability Office have called for Congress to establish a stronger vision for what a National Heritage Area should be, and what the criteria should be for establishing such an area.   The rapid proliferation of National Heritage Areas in the 2000’s, in which 31 out of the 49 National Heritage Areas were established between 2000 and 2009 probably represented too-fast growth.    Nevertheless, the National Park System and the Passport Program would have some clear missing holes without them.

 

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New Stamps for October

The calendar has rolled over to October, and the folks at Eastern National have made their monthly announcement of new Passport Cancellations.   This month there are four new stamps, all for the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership.  The Parternship  covers the region surrounding Lake Champlain in New York and Vermont, and is one of the current total of 49 National Heritage Areas.

The four new stamps for the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership are:

These four stamps join the existing stamp for the Gordon-Center House, which serves as the heritage area’s headquarters in the town of Grand Isle, Vermont.

These four new locations are not particularly surprising additions to the Passport Program for this Heritage Area, considering that thus far they only had a stamp for their headquarters.  These new stamps will take Passport collectors out into some of the sites in the heritage area.   The Lake Champlain Visitors Center is the regional tourist information center in Ticonderoga, NY at the southern end of Lake Champlain, and was perhaps the most-obvious Passport location candidate.

Meanwhile, the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge is located at the northern end of Lake Champlain, on the border between Vermont and Canada.  It is one of the only Federally-managed facilities in the Heritage Area, and so was also logical choice for a Passport cancellation.

The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is located a bit north of Ticonderoga on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain.   It is the sort of regional history museum that is always a prime candidate for a Passport cancellation in a National Heritage Area, as these are the sorts of partners that National Heritage Areas are almost seemingly designed to promote.

Perhaps the most-surprising choice of the four is the Art Museum located at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Plattsburgh – which is on the northern end of Lake Champlain on the New York side.   However, the Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area in Iowa includes a Passport Cancellation at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, where you can view the world-famous painting, American Gothic.  Meanwhile, the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, just to the south of the Champlain Valley in New York State has several stamps at art museums, including one at the art museum on the campus of SUNY New Paltz (and another that was formerly located on the campus of SUNY Purchase.)  So locating a National Heritage Area Passport cancellation at an art museum is not unprecedented.   However, I’ll be interested in learning more over the coming months as to why this particular location was selected.

Finally, its worth noting that surprising by its omission is Fort Ticonderoga.   Fort Ticonderoga was the site of a significant Revolutionary War engagement in the Saratoga Campaign, so it arguably is of sufficient significance to merit outright national park status.   However, it is currently privately owned and operated, so its possible that the necessary partnership agreements have not yet been worked out.

With the addition of these four stamps to the Passport program, there are now, by my count, 1,935 available Passport cancellations.

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New Passport Stamps for September 2014

In addition to trying to visit all the U.S. National Parks, I’m also a big fan of the Passport to Your National Parks program.   In fact, I am not entirely sure which idea came to my first – trying to visit all the U.S. National Parks or trying to collect all the cancellations in the Passport Program.  The two goals, at least back when I started, really seemed to go hand-in-hand… by trying to collect all the passport cancellations, I would naturally visit all the national parks in the process, and vice-versa.

The Passport Program is sponsored by Eastern National, Inc. – which is the non-profit cooperating association that operates the bookstores for many of the national park sites in the eastern United States.   Since many of the national parks in the eastern U.S. lack the publicity of a Yellowstone or a Grand Canyon, the passport program was initially conceived as a way to promote visitation to all of the national parks, both large and small, both famous and off-the-beaten-path.

Each month, Eastern National releases the list of new Passport Cancellations.   This month there are four of them:

    • Cape Lookout National Seashore | Beaufort, NC
    • Independence NHP | Franklin Court Printing Office
    • Erie Canalway National Heritage Area | H.  Lee White Marine Museum
    • Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom | New Castle Court House Museum

By my count that brings the total number of passport cancellations in the program to approximately 1,929 active major cancellations.   Obviously, with only 401 national parks, that works out to many more than one cancellation per national park!   That’s in part because larger parks may have multiple cancellations for different locations throughout the park, and other parks may have special cancellations available for a specific anniversary celebration, such as the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.

For example, this new cancellation brings Independence National Historical Park up to 8 available active cancellations.  7 of them are in downtown Philadelphia:

    • Philadelphia, PA (at the main visitor center)
    • Liberty Bell
    • Franklin Court (where a museum stands on the location of Ben Franklin’s former house)
    • Benjamin Franklin Museum
    • Franklin Court Printing Office (where the National Park Service has restored Ben Franklin’s print shop for working demonstrations)
    • Declaration House (where Thomas Jefferson did most of the writing for the Declaration of Independence)
    • Old City Hall (which was used by the U.S. Supreme Court from 1791-1800 while the U.S. Capitol was in Philadelphia

The eighth is for the Germantown White House, which is a house in what was in the 18th century then-suburban Germantown.  President Washington stayed there to escape a yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia during Philadelphia’s time is the national capital.

While Independence National Historical Park includes dozens of other buildings in downtown Philadelphia, perhaps the most-notable thing about this list of passport cancellations is that there are now three stamps for Benjamin Franklin, as well as a stamp for the Liberty Bell, but no specific stamp for visiting Independence Hall – the iconic centerpiece of the park itself.   Go figure!

The new stamp for Cape Lookout National Seashore is not surprising as they just opened a new visitor information center in the Beaufort, NC Town Hall, which was the former site of the post office there. This cancellation gives Cape Lookout four active cancellations:

    • Beaufort, NC – as mentioned above
    • Harker’s Island, NC – the park headquarters, main visitor center, and primary ferry departure point to Cape Lookout itself are all here
    • Light Station Visitor Center – this is the main visitor center on Cape Lookout itself, it is only accessible by ferry
    • Portsmouth Village – it actually takes two ferries to reach this remote location, a place that is legendary for the epic number of mosquitoes on the island!

The other thing which boosts the total number of cancellations is that the National Park Service does much more than simply manage the U.S. National Park System.   In particular, it operates a number of partnership programs, including National Heritage Areas, which opens the Passport Program to other sites that aren’t themselves national parks..

The new location for the Erie Canalway National Heritage Area gives that program 27 total cancellations.   Of those, four are located at national parks located within the Erie Canalway National Heritage Area.  The other 23, like the H. Lee White Marine Museum, in Oswego, NY are other historic sites that are not Federally-run, but participate in the Passport Program through the National Heritage Area partnership program with the National Park Service.

Finally, the Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom is yet another partnership program.  In this case, special Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom passport stamps are given to any of the 401 national park sites that tells the story of slavery or emancipation in some way, shape, or form.  This site is going to the New Castle, Delaware Old Court House Museum, which is part of First State National Monument.  The Old Court House was the site of a famous trial of Thomas Garrett and John Hunn, who were convicted of working as stationmasters on the Underground Railroad in violation of the Fugitive Slave Act.    This cancellation brings the number of active and available Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom cancellations to 26.

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